WFH rules

Adam Walker urges agents to review practices brought about by Covid and think carefully if they are still appropriate, post-pandemic.

Working from home image

A lot of working practices have changed forever as a result of Covid but more than three years after the pandemic started, the time has come when we must question whether all of these changes have been sensible. Let’s start with the issue of working from home.

Adam Walker
Adam Walker

The arguments for and against this policy have become increasingly polarised. Staff say that commuting into work every day is a waste of their time and money. Many say that they are more productive when working from home because they don’t have to deal with constant interruptions from their colleagues. Some staff feel so strongly about working from home that they have changed jobs in order to avoid having to return to the office.

Not all staff feel this way though. Many enjoy the camaraderie of being part of a team and feel very lonely when they have to work alone all day. Junior staff miss the opportunity to learn new skills from their more experienced colleagues. And many people who live in shared houses or have children at home do not have a quiet room at home in which to work.


A third group of staff prefer to work from home for two or three days a week and come to the office for the rest of the time. They often choose to come in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and become known as the ‘TWATs’.

Employers are also deeply divided about the pros and cons of WFH. On the plus side, it saves them money on office space, it makes it easier for them to recruit and retain good staff and it helps them to reduce salary costs if they can recruit WFH staff who live in areas where salaries are lower. On the minus side, there are concerns about productivity, maintaining service standards, team spirit and the issue of training junior staff.

Employers are also deeply divided about the pros and cons of WFH.

In reality, there is no one policy that suits every organisation but what seems to have happened in many companies is that employers have abdicated responsibility for deciding who is allowed to work from home and let their staff choose what to do for themselves. This cannot be right and every organisation needs to set time aside to decide what policies are right for their own company and why.

Zoom calls

Let’s look at Zoom calls next. Many of us think back to the days when we spent hours travelling to and from a short meeting and wonder why we did it. Zoom and Teams meetings have made us so much more productive, but they are not the right solution for every meeting. There has been a trend to upgrade telephone calls into Zoom calls but this is often a mistake. It usually takes much longer to deal with an issue on Zoom that it would have done on the telephone.

At the other end of the scale, there are some situations where a face-to-face meeting is more effective than a Zoom call. In my own business, I used to meet nearly all of my clients before I put their businesses onto the market. During the course of these meetings, my clients would often tell me about their families and children and reasons for selling and would talk about what they were planning to do after they had sold.

These days, the vast majority of my meetings are Zoom calls and the conversations tend to be more focused on the numbers and the facts. I don’t think it has made much of an impact on my effectiveness but it does somehow dehumanise the job and make it a little less fun. I don’t miss the traffic jams and the packed trains though!

Every business needs a policy on Zoom meetings with guidelines on which meetings should be face-to-face and why. For example, many firms experimented with doing valuation appointments via Zoom during the lockdown but for most this policy was a disaster which produced much reduced conversion rates. Price reduction calls on the other hand can be dealt with perfectly well via a Zoom call. These decisions are important and need to be based on the facts and the data.

Virtual viewings

Let’s look next at virtual viewings. These have proved to be remarkably effective at cutting down wasted viewings. Some firms are now insisting that a virtual viewing is conducted prior to a real one. However, it is not reasonable to expect buyers to make the most important decision of their lives on the basis of ten minutes looking at a video on their phone.

To summarise then, I would suggest that you set some time aside to make a list of all the changes in your working practice that were brought in as a result of Covid so that you can decide which ones are still serving you well, and which ones are not.

Adam Walker is a management consultant and business transfer agent who has specialised in the property sector for more than forty years.

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